Jan. 25 — David Bordwell

Please join us on Friday, January 25, 2019 at 11:00 AM in Cobb 311 for the first meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Winter Quarter. We are delighted to have David Bordwell, Jacques Ledoux Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. His presentation is entitled,”Explanations of style, styles of explanation.”

Lois Weber’s False Colours (1914)

This workshop will not have a pre-circulated paper.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,

Gary and Cooper

Explanations of Style, Styles of Explanation

In The Classical Hollywood Cinema (1985), Janet Staiger, Kristin Thompson, and I tackled several questions, including: What are characteristic features of style and narrative in American studio filmmaking, and how might we explain them historically? This talk proposes to survey some of the answers, chiefly those presented as explanations, and then trace their presuppositions about artistic continuity and change. The talk goes on to trace how later research projects suggested some refinements in those explanations.

In the course of this talk, I’ll be distinguishing several types of explanation and considering the central role of norms in analyzing artistic styles. I’ll also argue for the usefulness of two conceptual tools I’ve deployed in later work: the problem/solution model of artistic activity and the idea of schemas as a through-line within an aesthetic tradition. The last part of the talk concentrates on how the problem/solution couplet and the notion of schemas inform a trend of “middlebrow modernism” in adjacent arts, and point toward explanations of 1940s innovations in Hollywood storytelling.

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He has written several books on film aesthetics and history, most recently Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling. With Kristin Thompson he has written the textbooks Film Art: An Introduction and Film History: An Introduction. They blog regularly at www.davidbordwell.net/blog.


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